Contractors are widely opposing recommendations in a government report on construction deaths that gangmaster licensing rules should be extended to include the industry

The proposal, which is one of 28 made in the recent government inquiry into construction fatalities chaired by Rita Donaghy, would place more duties on employment agencies for health and safety.

Stephen Ratcliffe, director of the UK Contractors Group, said he believed there was no justification for extending the rules, which were brought in after 23 Chinese cockle pickers died five years ago.

Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of the National Specialist Contractors Council, agreed: “I don’t see evidence that it would result in a drop in the number of deaths.”

But Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, hit back at opponents of the proposal. “Extending the legislation would give workers better protection and companies would be forced to improve safety,” he said.

“It should be noted that the recommendation came from an independent report. The industry critics of the measure are not independent.”